Grand Theft Auto series
1997 – Grand Theft Auto
1998 – Liberty City Stories
1999 – Grand Theft Auto 2 ( )
2013 – Grand Theft Auto 2 ( )
Grand Theft Auto, also referred to as Grand Theft Auto 1 in order to differentiate between the original game and the series' individual titles, is the first game in the Grand Theft Auto series, released on PlayStation, PC and later on Game Boy Color. It is also one of the 20 preloaded games on the PlayStation Classic console, released in December 2018.
Grand Theft Auto: London 1969 was made as an expansion pack for GTA, and Grand Theft Auto: London 1961 was in turn an expansion pack for London 1969. Both of these games require the original GTA disc to work.
The game is set in 1997 in three American cities: Liberty City (and the neighbouring state of New Guernsey), San Andreas City, and Vice City. The player chooses the role of one of a group of eight silent criminals, four males and four females, looking to work their way up the career ladder of the cities' organized crime.
The project was originally named as Race'n'Chase.
Through interviews with the early GTA developers and staff members, we know that during the development of the first game they had the general idea of pushing the boundaries of what a game could offer at the time, and that each member could bring up any ideas they could imagine to include in the game. One of the first elements that was proposed was to let the game have different radios with different music genres, an idea that at first wasn't really accepted by all the staff and had some skeptics. The general atmosphere of the company at the time needs to be understood, there was some friction between the members because the game had been stuck in "development hell" for years, owing to the difficulties in coding and compiling so many complex features (the mix of driving, open-city exploration and shooter genres in particular) that were proposed and that, up until then, no game had featured in such a manner. The staff was particularly worried that the public misunderstood the game as an "inferior 2D driving game in top-view" at a time that 3D-graphics racing-genre games were in full swing.
The staff had fantasized for a long time on getting the licenses of major hits and have access to great catalogues of music, something that wouldn't really be realized until GTA Vice City as the music industry didn't believe in videogames as a medium at the time. Thus, they had to produce original music with mock radio stations and fictional artists. The members had freedom to come up with different ideas and produce them. Two members in particular were crucial for producing those early tracks: Colin Anderson (who dealt with rock, funk and country tracks) and Craig Conner (who dealt with electronic, pop and hip-hop tracks).
Conner, then indie music producer recently hired, was struggling to produce the hip hop tracks as he was more of an electronic music enthusiast and had never rapped, so he teamed up with Johnny Wilson (who adopted the alias "Robert De Negro"), which was "a tall, black guy who was a student of Chemistry at Dundee University", in the words of early GTA developer Dave Jones. The objective was clear: to make a hip hop song that synthesized all what a Grand Theft Auto game was about, and thus they created the song "Grand Theft Auto". The track was so successful within the staff that it convinced them definitely on heading into the approach of having different radios, and the song itself became from then on the flag of intent into what a GTA song should be.
- Gangsta Bang
The player starts off in Liberty City, and begins to work for Robert "Bubby" Seragliano's gang. They have the player complete several jobs, ranging from stealing taxis to killing the LCPD police chief via car bomb, as well as assassinating the lawyer of the rival Sonetti Gang. One mission also involves a trap in the form of a bomb on a bus that will blow up if it gets below 50 mph (a reference to the action film Speed). Once the player has enough points, Don Sonetti's right-hand man Cabot contacts the player, wishing to speak to him/her. Upon meeting him, he claims the player double-crossed Bald Man Sonetti, and is a dead man if it happens again.
- Heist Almighty
Once again, the player must do several jobs to complete the level. Right away, Bubby calls saying "Sasha" has been kidnapped (failing the mission will reveal that Sasha is actually the boss' puppy). The player can choose to rescue her or fail it; if the player fails the mission, the cops find and bring her in, for someone heard her scream in a trunk. Once the player does some jobs (including killing Sonetti) and has enough points again, Bubby will ask the player to come see him. Bubby will say the player did a good job, but the cops are close enough to look up his ass with flashlights. Bubby, in an effort to get rid of the unneeded police attention, booked the player a flight to San Andreas.
- Mandarin Mayhem
Upon arrival to San Andreas, the player is contacted by Uncle Fu's gang, and begins to work for them. Once the player does enough work and gets enough points, they can see the old man. He is building a crime syndicate of extraordinary magnitude, and the player honors his family.
- Tequila Slammer
Now, the player works for El Burro. Once the player does enough jobs, pleases him, and gets enough points, he'll ask them to come over to his place. The player did good work for him, and he is grateful. Now he's going to return the favor. He's going to reward the player "personal" this time.
- Bent Cop Blues
A cop named Samuel Deever calls the player because apparently they screwed up somewhere. The player works for him now. Following the same routine, once the player gets enough points, they can go see a now very angry Deever. If the player crosses him again, they're screwed for life, if they even have a life after.
- Rasta Blasta
Now the player works for Brother Marcus. Most jobs involve killing. When the player gets enough points and goes to see him, Brother Marcus is proud, and apparently the player got the job done. He thinks the player has done a good job. And finally he doesn't think he'll be seeing the player for a long time.
- Fist - People cannot be killed with this weapon. However, it can immobilize enemies for a few seconds.
- Pistol - Slow firing rate, but kills with one shot. Lots of ammo can be found around the cities. It is always near hospitals and police stations, and is the standard weapon of cops and criminals.
- Machine Gun - Rapid rate of fire, but it is only in specified places and it doesn't have much ammo. It is used by police when player has wanted level of four.
- Rocket Launcher - Only used for destroying vehicles, but buildings will also catch fire when shot. It is found only in rare places.
- Flamethrower - Can easily blow up a car or catch people on fire. It is most useful for killing groups of enemies, but it is a rare weapon.
There are some burps and farts too, as specials, but have no effect on any enemy and pedestrians.
The original Grand Theft Auto is made up of a series of levels each set in one of the three cities in the game. In each level, the player has a target number of points to achieve, and five lives to attain the score.
The score counter doubles as a money meter; the player can spend this money on paint jobs and various other things. However, any money spent is of course taken away from the score, making the goal that little bit further away.
On obtaining the target number of points, the player must then drive to a certain location to complete
the level, which allows progress to the next one.
Apart from that, the player is free to do whatever they want. The player can just explore the city, cause death and destruction, or steal and sell cars for profit, although completing a level will almost certainly require the completion of missions. Even in missions there is still some freedom, as usually the player is free to choose the route to take, although the destination is usually fixed. This level of freedom was not found in most action-based computer games at the time. Be mindful that free roam has its limits (unlike Grand Theft Auto III and its successors), most notable having a limited number of lives, as once the player loses lives by becoming repeatedly killed, they will be redirected to the results. And unlike the later games in the series, the player can be killed in one hit unless they are wearing body armor (though it only protects them from bullet fire).
There are various ways in which to earn the points needed to complete each level.
Some points can be earned by committing various crimes, such as ramming cars (10 points each), and killing police (1000 each). The more serious the crime, the more points, but also the more the police will pay attention to the player. Another way to make money is to steal cars, and sell them at the many docks around each city, usually earning several thousand points.
These activities can give the player quite a number of points but they are not sufficient to earn the millions of points needed to complete each level (unless the player has a lot of patience), so it is necessary to take on missions to complete a level. On successful completion of a mission, the player gets 'paid', a large amount of points. A typical payment is in the region of 50,000 points.
Also after completing a mission, the score multiplier is increased by one. The score multiplier is multiplied by the normal score for something, to get the points actually awarded. For example a multiplier of three will mean that the player gets three time the regular amount of points, so 30 points for ramming a car, rather than the normal 10 points. This applies for anything points are awarded for, including the payment for completing a mission.
In the Gameboy port, score multipliers are handled differently. The player can collect floating "X"'s hidden in each city, that automatically add a multiplier to the score counter. The first time one is picked up it says "×2", the second time it says "×3", and so on. This only affects points gained after acquiring the multiplier, not the points the player already has, so it is in the player's best interests to seek the "X"'s as soon as possible. Multiplier does not disappear if the player is arrested in this port.
The three cities in which the game is set are modeled after certain cities, in terms of landscape and style. They are Liberty City (New York City) including its neighboring State of New Guernsey (New Jersey), San Andreas (San Francisco), and Vice City (Miami).
Those three cities later became the settings for the 3D era games and HD era games. In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, San Andreas is expanded from a city to an American state, which contains three major cities of its own: Los Santos (Los Angeles), San Fierro (San Francisco) and Las Venturas (Las Vegas). The state of New Guernsey later became the State of Alderney in Grand Theft Auto IV.
In most cases, missions are started by answering telephones, although some missions are allocated on the spot, or are triggered by entering certain vehicles. Once a phone is touched, the player is stuck doing that mission until they pass or fail it, but with the cars it is different. The player is told "I've got a new job for you, if you want it. Otherwise get the hell out of my car." They then have a few seconds to jump out before that mission begins.
The payphones all stop ringing while a player is on a phone mission, but the car missions are still available. By accepting a car mission the player can override a phone mission (failing it but without a failure notice) and do that mission instead, but a phone mission cannot override a car mission as the phones stop ringing.
At the start of each mission, the player will be given a series of instructions they must follow. The instructions are given in stages, so the objectives can change in a given situation.
Many of the missions involve tasks that can be completed at the player's own pace, so the player can take a leisurely pace, and observe the traffic laws, although there is always a temptation to cut corners. However, sometimes the game imposes time limits on mission completion, or there may be people giving chase, such as enemy gangsters, or the police, forcing the player to cut corners, to get to the destination on time and/or evade the pursuers. This means running red lights, driving on the sidewalk (risking running over pedestrians), and finding shortcuts.
Law enforcement in GTA is generally characterized as an obstacle in the game, appearing in the force of police officers who are ready to pursue, arrest, and kill the player if they have committed sufficient criminal acts. The player's wanted level is defined by the number of police heads seen on top of the screen. The more crime the player commits, the more determined the police will be to subdue them. The player can have up to four police heads, which at this point leads to very hostile officers.
Despite its age, GTA even included a multiplayer function, which allowed players to battle with human opponents. This was possible over either a LAN connection or using a null modem cable.
Console ports and demo versions
The original Grand Theft Auto was first available for DOS, and then later ported to Microsoft Windows, PlayStation, and Game Boy Color. A Sega Saturn version was also planned, but canceled early, and there are rumors that Grand Theft Auto 64 was also a port for GTA.
"Hot Bitch Teaser" (setup tile) was the first free demonstration for the game, and can be downloaded on the official Rockstar's website for GTA. There are three versions for different software: one with 3DFX compatibility, one with 8-bit compatibility, and one with 24-bit compatibility. The 8-bit has a simpler graphics set.
It is a demo for the game's first level, Gangsta Bang, featuring all the protagonists and the four phone missions from Bubby. However, there is no soundtrack or sound effects and the player is not able to play the four on the same playthrough because the demo is limited to 6 minutes of gameplay. After these 6 minutes, the game will automatically take the player to the score screen.
Oddly, if the player attempts to enter the secret vehicle missions, the game will display a different dialogue mocking the player for not being able to play those missions.
"ECTS Competition" (setup title) was the second demonstration for the game, available an unknown time after "Hot Bitch Teaser" on the Rockstar's website. Unlike the first demo, it has only 3DFX compatibility, making more difficult to emulate this demo on modern computers.
This demo features the sound effects and part of the soundtrack, and is an altered version of the mission Tequila Slammer - Phone 3: Mission 1. The demo begins with the protagonist already in southeast Excalibur, a Machine Gun and an Armor in crates and a Speeder are provided nearby. Unlike the full game mission, where the player has to kill eight police officers, the demo has only five. The targets in southwest Marina, southeast Aye Valley and east Woodside are removed, and after killing the last target at Sunview the demo ends. Each time the player kills one of the five cops a big letter message instead of dialogue is displayed stating the number of remaining targets, something absent on the retail versions.
The PlayStation version of the game is a very accurate recreation of the original DOS game. The soundtrack is still the same, but there are graphics downgrades: the three towns are now more colorful and less detailed. Two missions also have been removed due hardware limitations: Gangsta Bang - Counthash and Heist Almighty - Itali. Both of these missions have the player entering a train, and because trains are absent in the PlayStation version, these missions have been removed.
Later, the PlayStation version received a port of the London 1969 expansion pack which shared the same graphic downgrade and requires the GTA CD to play. There is also stand-alone version (without the need for the GTA CD) of London 1969 for PlayStation, but was only released in the UK.
Game Boy Color
Surprisingly, the Game Boy Color version was unabridged, which was quite a technical achievement due to the sheer size of the cities, converted tile-for-tile from the PC original, making them many times larger than most Game Boy Color game worlds were because of the handheld's limited hardware. It is also playable on the original Game Boy system, sacrificing only the color palette for playability. To cater for the target younger generation, however, the game was heavily censored, with gore and swearing removed. This Game Boy Color version also had an exclusive character named Kelly, who could be renamed Sumner, and activate a cheat code which unlocks 15 characters, based on the games' creator. Wanted Levels were represented by a trouble bar in the Game Boy Color.
But the GBC port still displays technical limitations. For example, Pedestrians rarely ever spawn on the streets, unless the Protagonist is driving a vehicle, and the Police have notoriously inferior AI that can result in cars spawning and being trapped behind a building before they even come close to the player's position. These make most combat outside of missions highly impractical, and evading the police is turned into a cakewalk, even at the highest wanted level.
The game also features a radically different soundtrack from the PC and PS1 versions, replacing all the songs that play on the radio and menus in those versions with 8-bit instrumental tracks composed by Anthony Paton.
The game, with its violent subject matter, generated a great deal of controversy. However, this was deemed to be intentional, and was the first game known to have been publicized in such a way. Take-Two Interactive, the publishers of Grand Theft Auto, hired publicist Max Clifford to generate an aura of controversy about the game in the local media. As a result, politicians stepped into the fray. Whatever the impact on game censorship and the perception of video gaming, the publicity worked - the title was hugely successful simply because those attempting to ban the game were inadvertently generating publicity for it. This has been a known and recognized phenomenon of violent video games ever since its release. The game was banned in Brazil and, temporarily, Britain for its content.
- One of the hidden Easter Eggs in the game is the now famous "Gouranga" bonus, given for swiftly killing an entire group of Hare Krishna monks.
- The box art for the PC version in the US features the infinite lives cheat "6031769" on the car's license plate. This is a reference to the old British computer game Manic Miner, which also featured "6031769" as a cheat code, which was based on the driving licence of Matthew Smith, the programmer of Manic Miner.
- The parts of the cities are based on their counterparts, such as Liberty City's neighborhoods. There are neighborhoods like Brix, which is based on The Bronx, Brocklyn (obviously based on Brooklyn). Vice City has districts such as Vice Beach and Banana Grove, which are based on Miami Beach and Coconut Grove.
- A character called El Burro also appears in Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.
- Head Radio is the only radio station from GTA that appears in other games; it was also a station in Grand Theft Auto II as well as in GTA III and Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and was planned to be in Grand Theft Auto IV.
- Grand Theft Auto resulted from a glitch in an earlier DMA Designs game, Race'n'Chase. The glitch made the police attempt to run the player's car off the road rather than pulling them over; it was so popular with playtesters that the game was reworked to focus on the behavior.
- Not counting Grand Theft Auto Online and its content updates, this is one of the only two games in the series to contain expansion packs (London 1969/1961), the other being the Grand Theft Auto IV (The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony).
- The typeface (font) used on the logo for the game is "Powerhouse", which is also used as a homage on the Tiny Racers logo in Grand Theft Auto Online to reference the top-down gameplay of the original Grand Theft Auto.
- The tower depicted on the box art is the Trump Tower, owned by Donald Trump.
- There is a graphical glitch where, if the player achieves a multiplier of 10x, the number showing the player's lives will disappear, resulting in the player being unable to know how many lives they have left.
- This could be caused by the double digits.
- "How we made... Grand Theft Auto", The Guardian
- "This song was 'banned' from Grand Theft Auto 2", Louder Sound
- "The Replay Interviews: Gary Penn", Gamasutra
- "Interview with DMA's David Jones", IGN
- "Playing Catch Up: GTA/Lemmings' Dave Jones", Gamasutra
- "The reality is we're not really interesting", Euro Gamer
- "20 years at Rockstar Games with Craig Conner", GamesTM
- "The Origins of Grand Theft Auto", Sabotage Times